Time For More Charter School Unionization Stories

I got out my sextant, Air Almanac and HO-249 Sight Reduction Tables and after several celestial observations discovered the stars were aligned for yet another round of charter school unionization stories.

These appear in bunches every so often, usually with breathless remarks on both sides of the issue about this coming trend. Over the last few days we have been treated to 2,500 words in Politico, another 1,600 words in The American Prospect, and an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

The stories assert that the union share of charter school teachers has risen since 2012 (update: the increase comes after it dropped between 2009 and 2012), but are very light on hard numbers. AFT claims it has “roughly 7,000” members who work in charter schools, while NEA won’t disclose how many it has.

The Politico story tells us (in the 13th paragraph) that “about half of the nation’s unionized charter teachers are bound by state law to local collective bargaining agreements.” So, a large number of unionized charter school teachers became so automatically.

The American Prospect story reports on a unionization effort at the Paul Public Charter School in Washington, DC. If successful, it would be the first charter school in the district to unionize. We are told 75 percent of the teaching staff signed a petition to join AFT.

Paul Public Charter School has 35 teachers and 28 other staffers who might be eligible to join a bargaining unit, but the story does not make it clear whether they would all be included.

So here’s your alternate headline: 47 People Sign Petition For Union.

This month, a 70-member local decertified NEA, garnering less than 200 words in the Manhattan, Kansas local newspaper. Teachers in the Carmel Clay school district in Indiana are trying to decertify NEA. They have a bargaining unit of 800 teachers. Teamsters Local 14 in Las Vegas has fought for 15 years to replace the NEA-affiliated school support employees local and is awaiting a Nevada Supreme Court decision on the election it won with 82 percent of the vote. That unit has almost 12,000 workers.

These stories never made the national press and were never cited as the first wave of a coming trend. Nor should they be. Organizing drives in charter schools and decertification drives in traditional schools are both marginal events in the public education sphere. Let’s all calm down, at least until the stars align again.